Kala Ghoda art festival offers highs and lows

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Kala Ghoda art festival offers highs and lows
An 80-year-old Parsi gentleman slings his arm carelessly around his famous artist friend and flashes a toothless grin for a photograph. At a short distance, a group of flimsy chiffon-clad south Mumbai homemakers crowd around a Man Booker nominated author to extend an invitation for their next arty party. And even further away, at David Sasoon Library garden, Mumbai poets join on ‘Hope Street’ to celebrate their annual reunion. Such instances float through the cold, slightly supercilious air of Kalaghoda art festival in South Mumbai and touch people in a cosmetic spirit of cultural networking with a dash of nostalgia.

For the nine days of Kalaghoda festival, a better part of Mumbai flock to Kalaghoda art fair to mingle in the open space, linger in galleries where world cinema and short documentaries flicker across the screens. The fair has always been as much about glamour, glitz as cutting edge alternative art -- more like a multi-media, multi-locational experience, meandering through the island city. The venue is tucked in an enclave bounded by Mumbai’s dockyard, Fountain and Oval Maidan, near the cacophonous Colaba Causeway in an affluent South Mumbai business district.

“We have seen around 10 lakh visitors so far. The response is indeed enthralling,” said a person who is a part of the organising committee of Kalaghoda art fair on condition of anonymity.

However, this time around, the fair has not quite lived up to its standard. Kalaghoda fair does not have much to offer in terms of quality of products, movies, literary sessions or theatre. The ethnic wear and artifacts available in the numerous stalls dotting the street are ridiculously overpriced. “We have to pay almost treble the price for most of the products,” said Sutapa Maitra, a school-teacher based in Mumbai. Similarly, the films being screened at Max Mueller Bhavan are far away from the high-culture space. “Who would like to watch Goliyon ki Raasleela Ramleela at Kalaghoda art fair,” sniggered Alima Tigga, a budding documentary film-maker and ex-student of Pune Film Institute. Some of the other films being screened at Kalaghoda festival are -- Go Goa Gone, Aanhkh ki Sharam and Ghatothkach.

The art installations at Kalaghoda festival dealing with the idea of changing perceptions and momentum are also not of remarkable quality. However, the first installation titled Mithya (Hindi for illusion) has drawn enough attention. It is a sort of a path where at each step a walker realises the illusory nature of his reality. Another installation captures the multiple images of the festival. The third one is a walk that recreates the experience of walking on a quiet road surrounded by trees on both sides.

As far as the literary sessions are concerned, we mostly see the same old faces every year -- to name a few -- Adil Jussawalla, Gieve Patel, Sampurna Chatterjee, Sridala Swami, Arundhati Subramaniam. In fact, in one of the interesting literary sessions exploring the idea of 'Renewal of the Journal' with Hemant Divate, Chandrahas Chowdhury, Ram Manohar Reddy and Ranjit Hoskote, a peeved man from the audience pointed out how we see the same old Mumbai writers every year, despite the reach and resources of the organiser.

Also, the fair, having shifted its music and dance venue to distant locations (Cross Maidan and Asiatic Steps) due to legal issues, remained a little listless in its essence. Around 22 dance genres were displayed in the festival through 38 performances of the nine days of the festival, representing various Indian states such as Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Kerala.



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